How ‘Star Wars’ is pointing to the future of hotels
How ‘Star Wars’ is pointing to the future of hotels
21 JULY 2017 7:48 AM

The “Star Wars” films might be set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but Disney’s new Star Wars-themed hotel in Orlando, Florida, might indicate what’s in store for the future of the industry.

In true Disney fashion, the company’s recent announcement of a new hotel property at its Orlando theme park designed to give guests an immersive experience based on “Star Wars” grabbed a lot of attention in consumer media over the past week.

It’s not hard to think of why. The property is as much experimental theater as it is a hotel property—with staff members required to act as characters and each guest given a storyline that is reflected in their interactions around the hotel.

“It’s unlike anything that exists today,” Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek said in a statement announcing the new property. “From the second you arrive, you will become a part of a Star Wars story! You’ll immediately become a citizen of the galaxy and experience all that entails, including dressing up in the proper attire. Once you leave Earth, you will discover a starship alive with characters, stories and adventures that unfold all around you. It is 100% immersive, and the story will touch every single minute of your day, and it will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.”

Perhaps the most interesting thing about all of this, from a hotel industry perspective, is the fact that it seems to make total sense but flies in the face of what the industry, in recent history, has been saying it needs to strive for.

I opined on what an anti-lifestyle hotel might look like in a recent blog, and I’m still not sure this is it, but at the very least it is flippantly and aggressively anti-“authentic.” There could be nothing less authentic than having guests and staff participating in a shared fantasy that they’re all actually living out some adventure set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

This property also isn’t seeking to enable any sort of guest experience outside of the property or connect with its adjoining neighborhood (not that there really is one in a theme park setting). This definitely isn’t a Hampton Inn on the side of the highway, but it also isn’t that prescribed formula we’re told millennials and the millennial-minded are looking for in a hotel stay.

This is a hotel as an experience itself—fully self-contained and self-sufficient from a guest experience perspective.

If this proves to be a success—and with the rabid and long-lasting fandom that revolves around “Star Wars,” it’s reasonable to assume it will be—I wonder how it might be replicated. Obviously, there are plenty of opportunities for other mega-franchises to do similar things. Disney could follow this up with a Marvel Universe-themed hotel or Warner Bros. could do a Harry Potter hotel.

But is this an idea that can be replicated in some way? Could hotels as entertainment become an expectation for a segment of the traveling population? What do you think? Let me know via email or on Twitter.

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